At the beginning of last year, I had found myself in a situation when I needed a new laptop. It is inevitable in the modern world of technology that after some time your device starts showing symptoms of wear and it is not able to handle everything you throw its way. That laptop I had was not expensive or powerful, it was just good enough and it survived three years of university.
Obviously, I needed a replacement. And to find one is a pretty difficult task as technology around us is constantly evolving. And especially computers. You hear about new astonishing devices all the time. That kind of devices, you would not even think of just a few months ago. That is how impressive technology is nowadays!
Laptop or tablet?
When I was looking at new laptops, I had a tough time choosing. Laptop manufacturers were offering so many different features, but still, none of them could solve my problems with laptops. They are heavy for carrying. They are loud and lazy, at least they were at that time. And they are unnecessarily big. Of course, now you could say that MacBook would be a perfect choice. No, it wouldn’t. Not with that cost. When you compare MacBooks to other products and compare the price too, you can see that they are overpriced. And anyway I wanted something more than just a laptop.
Back then it seemed like a market with tablets and small laptops were dying. But applied only to very cheap devices which didn’t make any good as portable devices. But one market was completely separated from that. A professional use of tablets in business for work and productivity. And that was where Apple was already heading with its iPad line.
Professional tablets are made of great materials, they are light, have a long-lasting battery, a high-resolution touchscreen display (btw. which is very good for eyes) and they are ready to be used in many ways. You can buy even a small wireless keyboard and quickly turn your tablet into a laptop. Or sometimes they offer a detachable keyboard that turns your tablet into a 2-in-1 device, combining the best of laptops and tablets.
iPad Pro hits the market
Just a few months before my search started, Apple had unveiled its new iPad Pro (12.9-inch 1st Gen). And honestly, I was amazed – a professional device, made for productivity, featuring the latest Apple technology like Touch ID and Retina Display. And great accessories like the Smart Keyboard and most importantly a wonderful Apple Pencil for note taking. Something I very admire. Yes, despite such an amazing advancement in technology, I still prefer to write my notes by hand. It feels better and it gives you a flexibility in case you need to draw a quick picture.
Apple released iPad together with the new iOS 9 mobile operating system. The ninth version brought plenty of new features, including an extended support for iPads with tweaks for better multitasking. The iOS is well-known for its advantages and one of them is a wide range of great apps. And by the time I was looking at it, many of them had already been optimized for iPad Pro.
iPad Pro’s reception was amazing, as expected. Apple even said that this could replace your laptop. Media chose a bit more cautious approach, but in many ways, it really could. It was powerful and definitely not an overpriced device for Netflix. It changed the perception of what tablets are capable of. But it wasn’t alone, there was one very dangerous competitor.
Microsoft has started its own brand of premium devices called “Surface” a few years ago. It is no secret that the main goal is to compete with Apple. Just like its main competitor, Surface brand targets business customers with devices for work and great productivity. But they also tend to focus on creative people a little bit more and recently also students.
You may have noticed that creative people working in the media and production have been unhappy with Apple for a while now. Apple used to deliver them perfect tools but over the past few years, the company has switched its focus more towards consumers. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Microsoft dedicates a lot of time to perfect its devices for creative minds.
The Surface line currently consists of the Surface Pro tablet, Surface Laptop, Surface Book laptop with detachable screen, all-in-one desktop Surface Studio and an interactive whiteboard Surface Hub. It is an impressive line of products which is soon going to expand with Surface Phone. But the most important is that every new device from Microsoft is breathtaking and people love them. And we all remember that used to be so typical for Apple before.
A lot of people agree that Microsoft is on a good path, maybe even more than its competitor, just as this article on TIME website implies “Microsoft is stealing Apple’s cool factor”. Especially since the announcement of Surface Studio, which Apple could have had first, but the company did not want to add a touch support to MacOS. And so, Microsoft Surface is getting more and more successful every year now.
Hello Surface Pro 4
Just a month after iPad Pro, Microsoft had its own announcement – the fourth generation of Surface Pro tablet with a detachable keyboard. Just like iPad it had a fantastic high-resolution display (12.3 inches) with multi-touch support and a powerful hardware underneath. It also featured a USB connector, an SD card reader, and a mini DisplayPort for connecting to an external display, unlike iPad.
But the most important feature of the Surface Pro line hides inside. A full desktop Windows 10 Pro operating system. That means you can run traditional desktop apps like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Premiere Pro and work with photos and videos on a professional level. And that doesn’t apply only to Adobe apps, you can use all desktop apps including Office, Steam, web browsers etc. They all can run on Surface Pro without any compromises.
Amongst accessories, you could find the detachable keyboard called Type Cover with a very precise trackpad and a new version of Surface Pen with replaceable tips and two buttons. The Pen is very similar to Pencil and though it might be slightly worse on paper, we are talking about a small difference that will matter only to the most demanding artists.
Making a decision
So, there I was – two premium devices in a category of their own, Apple iPad Pro 2 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Back then there were no other competitors on the market. I spent a long time looking at both and trying to decide. Both costed the same (keyboard and pen included), both powerful and both support note-taking.
One very important factory was a battery life. iPad Pro was doing undoubtedly better, but regarding the Apple Pencil, it was a very different story. The Pencil could last for only 12 hours, unlike Surface Pen and its replaceable battery that lasts for one year. And even if that wasn’t a deciding factor, that idea was still quite uncomfortable.
Anyway, ultimately it all came down to software. Like I mentioned before, iPad Pro is based on mobile iOS, while Surface Pro offers a full Windows 10 desktop experience. And the idea of running Photoshop or Lightroom without limitations is just way too sweet. Sure, one could argue about alternatives amongst many iOS apps available but at work, you cannot just change applications as it suits you.
To be honest, the more I had found about the subject, the more it felt like iOS is limiting iPad Pro’s capabilities. A device that is more powerful than most laptops has to rely on a system for mobile phones. There I felt is the crucial advantage of Surface Pro. In the end, I ordered Surface Pro 4 and I’ve never regretted it since.
After a year with Surface Pro 4
Just like I said at the end of the previous paragraph – I have no regrets. A year on and it’s still a marvellous device. I was even surprised how comfortable this tablet is to use. Is it perfect? Definitely not. Is it great? Absolutely! I wouldn’t change it for anything else, Except maybe for the very new Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) that comes with even better battery life and moves this device one more step towards perfection.
Since the first day, Surface Pro 4 has become my companion. I use it for work with documents and emails, for organising my calendar, for editing my photos using Adobe Lightroom app making that amazing screen useful. And I can switch to Photoshop at any time in case I need advanced tools – brushing, cropping, colour adjustments, layers. It’s all there! Though I must admit that sometimes I use it for Spotify and Netflix too.
Some people complain about battery life. Well, for me personally it feels better since the Creators Updates and I get over five hours pretty easily – with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on. Obviously, you have to stay careful and for example not to run a web browser with hundreds of tabs opened!
I wrote this article using Surface Pro. As you can see on a picture above, I used an external keyboard, though I have nothing to complain about regarding the original Type Cover which offers a very comfortable experience. And yes, I connected my Surface to an external display, which makes the writing of longer texts more comfortable. Does Surface handle it? Brilliantly, of course.